ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As the city of Kotzebue prepares to bury a 10-year-old girl on Saturday a newly released study by the Violence Policy Center shows that throughout the country more than 1,800 women and girls were murdered by men in 2016.
The report says Alaska has the highest rate of women killed by men. The report uses the term "females" to represent women and girls of all ages, but in this story, we'll use "women" for easier reading.
“The 2016 data in the VPC report confirms what law enforcement, prosecutors, and the public have known for quite some time: violent crime in Alaska has increased over the last several years for a wide variety of reasons." Walt Monegan, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, said in an email. "Even in times of scarce resources, DPS remains committed to fulfilling its constitutional obligation to protect the people of Alaska, and to providing resources to individuals and communities to help prevent intimate partner violence and assault. The Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) has done excellent work to increase the number of programs and shelters to better protect women, as well as all Alaskans.”
Additionally the Uniformed Crime Report shows there were 62 homicides in the state last year and 52 in 2016.
The report says, that for 2016, "Alaska ranked first as the state with the highest homicide rate among female victims killed by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents. Its rate of 3.40 per 100,000 was nearly three times the national average." Alaska was followed by Louisiana.
Nationwide, according to the study, 93 percent of women killed by men were murdered by someone they knew. The most common weapon used was a gun. In Alaska, 12 women were murdered by men that year, according to the report. Out of 12 of those homicide victims, eight were American Indian or Alaskan Native, three were white, and one was Asian or Pacific Islander. The report says that 11 out of 12 were murdered by someone they knew.
Many questions still remain about why 10-year-old Ashley Johnson Barr was killed and how.
Investigators said it "appears she was murdered," but they haven't released how.
Peter Wilson, 41, also from Kotzebue, is in custody charged with lying to a federal agent in the investigation of Ashley's disappearance.
He allegedly told investigators he didn't know Ashley, didn't see her name on the home screen of the cell phone he told investigators he found in the street, and didn't use a four-wheeler the day of her disappearance. Investigators found evidence they say refutes all those claims as they searched for the girl, who was found dead more than a quarter mile off a road.
Ashley's family has previously told law enforcement that Ashley and Wilson are related, but it is unclear how.
Kotzebue, with a population of more than 3,000 people is a close-knit community, fiercely proud of their home. Hundreds of people helped search for Ashley and even now the community is helping the family organize her funeral.
Diane Casto, the executive director for Alaska's Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, says homicides committed by strangers are extremely rare and she says past trauma and a continuation of violence against Alaska Native women creates disturbing trends of violence throughout the state.
"Many of our Alaska Native women have lived years of trauma," Casto said, "there is a lot of trauma that has gone on in our Alaska Native communities, that women particularly have trauma, from their own lives but also from their historical trauma."
She says there needs to be a continuation of care for both victims and aggressors and that it will take generations to fix the impacts that violence creates.